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Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics

From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond


Edited By Karrin Vasby Anderson

Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics: From "Bitch" to "Badass" and Beyond examines the negotiation of feminist politics and gendered political leadership in twenty-first century U.S. popular culture. In a wide-ranging survey of texts—which includes memes and digital discourses, embodied feminist performances, parody and infotainment, and televisual comedy and drama—contributing authors assess the ways in which popular culture discourses both reveal and reshape citizens’ understanding of feminist politics and female political figures. Two archetypes of female identity figure prominently in its analysis. "Bitch" is a frame that reflects the twentieth-century anxiety about powerful women as threatening and unfeminine, trapping political women within the double bind between femininity and competence. "Badass" recognizes women’s capacity to lead but does so in a way that deflects attention away from the persistence of sexist stereotyping and cultural misogyny. Additionally, as depictions of political women become increasingly complex and varied, fictional characters and actual women are beginning to move beyond the bitch and badass frames, fashioning collaborative and comic modes of leadership suited to the new global milieu. This book will be of interest to students and scholars interested in communication, U.S. political culture, gender and leadership, and women in media.

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12. Burlesquing the Veep: Veep’s Absurdist Rejection of Female Presidentiality (Kristina Horn Sheeler)


12. Burlesquing the Veep: Veep’s Absurdist Rejection of Female Presidentiality

Kristina Horn Sheeler

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Veep almost feels like the result of an alcohol-infused one-night stand between The West Wing and Parks and Recreation.1

Veep…answered The West Wing’s soaring optimism with cynicism; it answered House of Cards’s and Scandal’s scathing drama with petty human banality. That’s perhaps why Veep has been called, by real-life Washingtonians, “the most realistic show about politics.”2

In a mid-October 2016 interview with the Los Angeles Times, David Mandel, Veep’s showrunner, proclaimed: “Trump is ruining comedy.” “[E]verything [is] harder” now. He was referring to a scene they were working on in which one of the characters was being mouthy to a female police officer during a DUI stop. “We sort of had a run using [the P-word]. It was pretty funny and they basically threw it in the garbage. [Trump] is ruining comedy.”3 He acknowledged that the 2016 election cycle made a lot of people upset for different reasons, noting that “sometimes when you’re upset, you’re looking for a way to laugh at it. That’s a good thing for us.”4 Perhaps that’s a good thing for us watching, too.

Laughter is not just a good thing, but one of the key elements of political critique. Laughter places the audience at the center of the exchange, engaging them in a playfulness that takes many forms, but...

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